The Crucial, Missing Part of the Digital Asset Management Conversation: Culture

The Digital Asset Management (DAM) space is transforming. Agencies and corporations are fully investing and taking advantage of the benefits of DAM: reduction in asset creation costs, accelerated delivery, increased productivity, risk reduction, media reuse, data insight, etc. The result is a barrage of voices and products overlapping and cannibalizing one or another, evangelizing best practices lists and ROI charts. It finally would appear that good organization and true team collaboration is finally sexy. Hallelujah!

As someone who has worked in and around Digital Asset Management since the early 1990s, I’ve been asked: What does a good DAM look like? The short answer is… it depends, as every business manages differently, each with their own sets of requirements. Some require particular workflows, approval and collaborative structures, meta-data flexibility, security standards, transcoding, usage-tracking, and preview-ability. However, to me, there is one global requirement that is seldom considered – cultural fit.

too many pieces

The fact is, how you work culturally IS the primary reason a DAM program succeeds or fails in a business. Many people looking to bring DAM into their organization don’t even realize they are using something already. Every company has a baked-in culture for organizing, searching, and trafficking, even if their version is an unmitigated free-for-all. Trust me when I say that preferences exist in your business, and if ignored, whatever you do is doomed before it gets off the ground.

It’s common to treat DAM like an event – something that is decreed by a technical operations person that everyone must then suffer. In my experience this method inevitability causes a silent mutiny within the ranks, resulting in hatred of said solution and sadly, said technical operator (whose career now hinges upon it’s successful adoption). That’s driving systemic change in a bubble. It rarely works, if ever.

others rolled

Years ago, I met with a large agency group that was exploring how to deploy a DAM program across their offices worldwide. They had already spent big dollars, procured a boatload of expensive hardware, and hired a group of super smart people to maintain it (Wiredrive would be used as the cloud connector for sharing and distribution). They were pretty much ready to go. We were ready to go. I sat with their heads of print, digital, broadcast, interactive, and studio, each of whom were eager to have this problem solved for their own groups. In that meeting it was quickly apparent that no one had given any consideration to this problem holistically. Without collective buy-in chances were it was going to fail at some point. Thankfully, the agency’s director of technology recognized this too and decided to hold off until they could determine how the macro culture wanted to work. After spending close to a year exploring behaviors and preferences inside the agencies various offices they were able to provide the right tool and Wiredrive was able to provide a valuable extension as part of that fit. And, while doing nothing might not have seemed like a bold move, I assure you, it meant the difference between years of technical regret and an untold legacy of broken processes and trust within the organization.

One other cultural aspect worth mentioning is that even once you’ve put in place that ultimate solution, it’s imperative that you find and empower champions. They don’t need to be technical people either. In many case, they are not technical at all. Instead, these people are power users usually in the form of brand advocates or company historians that treat assets more anthropologically than they do as digital files. You must have these people in your midst – find them! Because as powerful as it is, meta-tags and keywords won’t do everything alone.

Good, lasting digital asset management is as much about cultural design and people as it is about the technology it sits on. It is a group activity that requires understanding the whole organization. When designing for DAM pour over questions like:

  • How does discovery and exploration happen in our business?
  • Do people browse?
  • Do people search in sentences?
  • How does privacy matter?
  • How does compliance and rights management factor into general availability and risk mitigation?
  • How important is our having our complete history at our fingertips?
  • How do we share as an organization?

Knowing these answers mean you can create a valued experience that will be sustainable over time, that in return will give you all of the DAM benefits as promised.

at last

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What more DAM ideas? Try this:
Rob Deutsche, Customer Success Manager at Wiredrive, has written a great primer for those looking to improve their file organization that I highly recommend: 5 quick yet effective tips to get your files organized.

By Taylor Tyng